Texas-based abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health is closing its four clinics in the state and planning to begin operations in New Mexico.
Its clinics in Fort Worth, McKinney, Austin, and McAllen, have already ceased providing abortions after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last month.
After the ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory saying his office would “assist” local prosecutors who pursue criminal charges “based on violations of Texas abortion prohibitions predating Roe that were never repealed by the Texas Legislature.”
“Although these statutes were unenforceable while Roe was on the books, they are still Texas law,” Paxton added. “Under these pre-Roe statutes, abortion providers could be criminally liable for providing abortions starting today.”
Texas abortion providers, including Whole Woman’s Health, sued to block the enforcement of the anti-abortion laws that predated Roe by decades. The providers scored a temporary victory and resumed performing abortions after a Harris County district court ruled on June 27 that the state could not enforce the decades-old laws.
However, on July 1, the Texas Supreme Court reversed the district court order. Another hearing is set for July 12.
Additionally, Texas has a “trigger” law that will ban most abortions in the state, except for medical emergencies, 30 days after an official Supreme Court judgment is issued overturning Roe v. Wade. The Court can issue an official judgment a month or more after a final opinion is issued, so it is unclear exactly when the “trigger” law will take effect.
“We’re not closing because we want to, we’re closing because we’re forced to,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Hagstrom Miller said Whole Woman’s Health’s Texas clinics are continuing to see patients for follow-up visits, taking care of things like medical records, “staff wind down,” and helping people get to other states where they can obtain an abortion.
She added that between 30% and 40% of patients recently seeking services at their Minnesota clinic were from Texas.
“There’s no reason we should have this ‘two different Americas’ that’s emerged that some people have access to safe, compassionate abortion care legally in their communities. And other people are forced to travel hundreds of miles,” Hagstrom Miller said.
With a Democratic-controlled legislature and Democratic governor, New Mexico’s abortion laws are less restrictive than Texas’. It does not have “waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions,” according to the Guttmacher Institute.
New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also recently signed an order to shield abortion providers and patients from out-of-state prosecutions. The state expects a steady influx of people seeking abortions from neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws, like Texas and Oklahoma.
“Our care model has been dismantled by the overturning of Roe,” Hagstrom Miller said. “We are abortion providers and we are banned from providing that service, and so we are forced to migrate to other communities where abortion is affirmed as essential health care, which, unfortunately, Texas has not done.”
When Texas’ trigger law goes into effect, “state licensing authorities are required to revoke any applicable license or permit of a health care professional who performs or attempts to perform an abortion in violation of the Act,” Paxton’s advisory states.
Paxton further wrote, “Texas law in a post-Roe world has already been written. Now that the Supreme Court has finally overturned Roe, I will do everything in my power to protect the unborn and uphold the state laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature.”
Hagstrom Miller said Whole Woman’s Health’s new clinic will be somewhere along the border of Texas and New Mexico.
As the abortion provider does not have the financial means to open a new facility without communal support, it launched a GoFundMe to raise the money for the move to New Mexico. The financial support is needed to help vacate its clinics, move equipment, buy and renovate a new building, and relocate and hire staff, Hagstrom Miller said.
Jonathan Saenz, attorney and president of Texas Values, applauded Whole Woman’s Health for moving out of Texas. He pointed to the Texas Heartbeat Law website, which gives information on alternatives to abortion.
“More Texas babies will be saved because this abortion business is moving out of Texas,” Saenz said in an email to The Dallas Express. “Women who want real, comprehensive support can reach out to the over 300 nonprofit pregnancy care centers in Texas, many who benefit from the $100 million dollar Alternatives to Abortion Fund in Texas.”
“While we celebrate the exodus of abortion businesses from our state, this move highlights the importance of nationwide efforts to stop abortions everywhere, and the importance of Pro-Life outreach in our own communities in Texas to ensure women seek pregnancy help here rather than travel out of state for abortions. We are also working with activists in New Mexico to save preborn children there,” said Kim Schwartz, director of media and communication for Texas Right to Life.